Quarterbacks Take Center Stage

TheInsiders take a look at this weekend's game, and how the focus has landed, unexpectedly, on the quarterbacks.

For a game pitting two premier running backs -- Jamal Lewis and Ricky Williams -- the quarterback situations for the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins have taken center stage.

While the Dolphins will go with Brian Griese for the fourth straight week, the Ravens have delivered a change-up by going with Anthony Wright.

By starting Wright, the Ravens elevated him from the scout team to the first team to replace injured starter Kyle Boller.

Wright becomes the 10th and most unlikely starter in 4 1/2 seasons under coach Brian Billick, who has never promoted a quarterback from third string to No. 1. His last start -- along with last regular-season snap -- was with the Dallas Cowboys in October 2001.

"It's a great opportunity," said Wright, who could start the next four games while Boller works his way back from a torn quadriceps muscle. "I understand the pressure that comes with being a starter of a football team and I'm ready to deal with it. I think the biggest thing for me this weekend is to play under control, to play within my game and not do too much."

The decision to leapfrog Wright over backup Chris Redman caused a stir in the Ravens' locker room.

Most anticipated Redman would start this week and were astounded when news of Wright's promotion -- newly signed quarterback Ray Lucas accidentally told reporters of the move Tuesday -- leaked out.

Some players said they heard about the change from television and others read about it in the newspaper before Billick made the official announcement at yesterday's team meeting.

"I had no clue what was going on," said Heap, who heard it Tuesday from his wife watching the news. "I'm not going to lie, it caught me off guard."

The Ravens seemed more at ease with the decision in the locker room by Wednesday.

"There's a method to coach's madness," running back Jamal Lewis said. "He knows what he is doing. I never question Coach Billick and his decisions."

Billick based his decision on the Ravens' offensive identity. With a scheme designed around the league's leading rusher Jamal Lewis, the Ravens' passing game needs to keep defenses honest.

For most of the game, defenses will stack the line with eight-man fronts, content to play receivers one-on-one and daring the Ravens to beat them deep. To counter that, the Ravens are going with Wright because of his arm strength and athleticism.

He has the potential to produce big plays with tight-spiraled throws downfield. He also has the mobility to fake the run one way -- getting the defense flowing to Lewis -- and bootleg the other direction for a high-percentage intermediate throw to a tight end.

"That's a tough situation for Chris, but the reason we're going with Anthony Wright is that right now Anthony's physical attributes fit better with what we're doing," Billick said. "That's not Chris' fault; it's just a matter of Anthony's athleticism. That's the primary thing. He fits more with what we do in both our running and passing game."

In his eight-game career, Wright has completed 46 percent of his throws for 766 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions. The knock on him has been erratic throwing and lack of game experience.

Despite not playing in a regular-season game in 25 months, Wright has not shown a lack of confidence.

Billick and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh saw that first-hand Tuesday when they told Wright he would be starting.

"He had the look of 'it's about time,'" Cavanaugh said. "It wasn't shock. It was like, 'I'm happy you guys finally figured it out.'"

By hearing about the decision to start Wright on Tuesday, the Dolphins were able to gain an extra day to dig up some old film on the five-year veteran. The Miami defense is formidable enough with eight former Pro Bowl players.

"I am glad that we know who is starting at quarterback early enough in the week," Miami coach Dave Wannstedt said. "It gives us a chance to adjust game plan-wise to what he will do best."

Billick said he was going to announce the decision yesterday nevertheless.

"There's a certain competitive advantage to that to a degree," Billick said. "But this team needs a definition."

SERIES HISTORY: 5th meeting. The Dolphins have won all three regular-season meetings but the Ravens won the only playoff matchup. Last year, the Ravens were physically manhandled by Miami in a 26-7 loss. Ricky Williams ran for 102 yards on 26 carries for the Dolphins. After the Ravens tied the game at 7, Miami scored the final 19 points.


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